I’m a big fan of music all different genres. I love everything about it – the way it sounds but more than that the way it makes me (and others) feel, the emotions it evokes. Often, I listen to music that matches or reflects the way I’m already feeling. I love the way we, as humans, relate to one another through music, its lyrics and stories. Sometimes, I let music guide my feelings – or listen in hopes it will illicit new or different emotions in me, maybe shift me out of a mood or funk. Still, other times, I seek spiritual refuge or inspiration from it, specifically tuning-in to music by artists who share my values and make me think.
On my journey, I’ve listened to lots of tunes in my car, but today I decided to drive sans radio. I made my way through Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks listening only to the sounds (and silence) of nature, and there was comfort in that.
When I came down from my campsite way up in the mountain (slowly, by way of that steep and winding road that pushed me to my limits last night), the temperature climbed quickly. It topped 90 by mid-morning, and I wasn’t especially looking forward to spending the day in a forest I expected to feel more like a jungle, with giant trees trapping the heat below their canopy. Then, thunder cracked, and the skies opened up, and there was more RAIN. It came down hard and fast, and the park rangers stood outside in awe of the sight of water falling from the skies, apparently a rarity here in July. Within 30 minutes, the temperature dropped to the mid-70s, and we humans breathed a sigh of relief in union with the trees and other creatures of the forest.
The giant sequoias are a sight to behold. The redwoods, which grow along the northern California coast, are the world’s tallest tree. Giant sequoias, on the other hand, have immense trunks which make them the largest tree in the world by volume. Redwoods grow tall and relatively slender, while sequoias grow up and around.
Walking through the “Giant Forest,” as John Muir nicknamed the area replete with the biggest of the big, was both awe-inspiring and humbling (especially when I made my way out of the crowds, standing in line to take pictures with the largest of the trees). It’s crazy to think what tiny blips we humans are in the history of the world. Some of these trees have stood majestically in place for thousands of years, with bark that protects them from fire and root structure capable of warding off danger and even communicating with other trees and plants nearby. I understand Muir’s fascination and tried to imagine myself walking through the forest in his shoes, before maps and tourists and sidewalks and noise. It must have been amazing. And so peaceful.
Alone in my car, driving the expanse of both Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks, I tried to tap into a similar peace and quiet. Thoughts still rattled around in my head, but I tried to tune into the wisdom and grace of the forest and let it inspire my thinking, just like I might do with my favorite music.